Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
It seems common these days and in this world of technology to consider training through videos or even the newer technology of podcasts. But the question remains, how effective is this form of training?
Traditionalist will say, not at all. One must train with a teacher and there is a heritage to protect and preserve that you will never recapture through a media world. Training needs to be done on the floor, in front of someone who can direct and correct you. Only the eye of a master is able to detect the errors and correct them.
“Modernist” (for a lack of a better terminology) will say otherwise. In this day in age, with so much technology and ability to capitalize on that technology, we would be fools to leave Martial Arts in the stone ages. We need to embrace the new technologies and find ways to progress with the world, not get trapped behind this supposed veil of secrecy.
The reality (as always the case) lies somewhere in between.
In today’s busy and global world, the standard work hours no longer hold true. The work place has changed and thus so has the ability for folks to dedicate set times every day or every week to do something. It seems that with the advances of our world to more time efficient devices such computers, email and fax, we have much less time for ourselves.
I won’t debate in this article if that’s good or bad but merely address that this is a barrier for many to receive consistent training. Thus, the option of gaining knowledge and training through media like DVDs and videos is very appealing. I for instance, had to move away for work from my teacher. Whereas I could find a local school, I feel very strongly attached to and respect my teacher. I wish to continue my training with him because I believe in what he teaches and feel it is the right Martial Arts for me.
So there is a portion of my training that is done with videos. But with that I also recognize the limitations and differences. There is something to be said for being able to have that teacher on the floor with you, pushing you that extra step and fixing the problems on the spot. Training this means is much harder and requires a good relationship with your teacher.
For me, this works. But it is because I have that bond with my teacher and the recognition that I do have limitations on how much I can learn this way. I may never reach the levels that some of those I trained up with will; but I accept that.
However, there are many that pick up a video and feel that after seeing the video and practicing what is in there, they know and understand the techniques. This may be true – I will never debate someone on what their knowledge does or does not entail. I will merely say that it is highly improbable they truly have been able to capture the full essence of the technique. Even now, at my level, I learn new things about the very basic forms I first learned each time I go back to train with my teacher.
Tradition and heritage is also a big part of Martial Arts, a fact that seems to be lost at times these days. Learning about where your Martial Arts comes from and how over time it has developed is what distinguishes one Art from another and separates it from other combat oriented sports like boxing or wrestling. That is not to say you MUST learn about tradition or heritage to practice Martial Arts; but you may be missing pieces of it if all you focused on is the combat.
Gaining some of this tradition and heritage from videos is extremely difficult, if not impossible. There is a level of continuity that is lost in this on demand media. The discipline is not there as it would be on the floor of a school.
There is also the social aspect to consider, which strengthens ones bonds to the specific discipline. I can clearly say that a portion of why I still remain with my discipline, Pai Lum Tao, is because of the people involved. They have become a family to me and I have very close bonds to those with which I trained and worked towards my ranking. I could never duplicate that is a video world.
So whereas I do not object to those that which to train through video, DVD or any new technology that distances the Martial Artist from the teacher, I think it needs to come with a level of understanding that it is not and probably can never equate to actually being with a teacher in person.